Dear Nurse Beth,
To prospective employers, I agree when you suggest saying nothing negative about our current situation, however new interviewing has changed the game. I recently interviewed for a transfer position. I've work as an RN for this company many years now. My interview questions were situational. I was specifically asked about a time I was treated unfairly or when the ethics of my company was compromised. I said I don't remember a time when ethics was an issue. And that was all. The faces of both managers showed disapproval. How does one answer this question, keep it real AND not be a complaining troublemaker?
Dear Trick Interview Question,
That's a great question.
It used to be that nurse interviewers asked very soft and predictable questions, such as "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" But that's all changed. Savvy nurse interviewers have upped their interviewing skills and nurse applicants must do the same.
To be a competitive applicant today, you must now be prepared for both behavioral and situational questions. Here is an excerpt from my book "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job" which contains several chapters on interviewing alone.
Nursing interviews typically include behavioral questions that are designed to test for specific characteristics required/desired for your job. In this chapter, we'll cover some commonly asked behavioral interview questions.
They generally start with "Tell me about a time
," "Give us an example
," or "Describe a situation
." They are designed to give the employer insight into how you would respond to similar situations in the future based on your past behavior.
The manner in which you answer the question is telling. It isn't about confessing your weaknesses, exposing yourself, and being overly vulnerable. It's about demonstrating confidence, honesty, and composure when presented with a behavioral interview question. Show some personality. Don't be timid. Remember that stories are remembered
, so be prepared to tell some.
Prepare These Three Examples
To start with, prepare at least three examples. Examples make you memorable. Examples are short stories with a purpose, and stories are remembered.
To prepare your examples, anticipate characteristics the employer will be looking for. Their questions will be designed to test for those characteristics.
For example, you could reasonably expect that an RN employer may want to know about your:
· Personal ethics and insight: "Tell us about a time when you made a critical mistake at work."
· Customer service: "Give us an example of a time when you went above and beyond in customer service."
· Conflict management: "Describe a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it."
· Flexibility: "Tell me about a time you had to adjust to a change at work."
Now think back. Recall a concrete example of going above and beyond in customer service. Think of a time when you made a serious mistake, disagreed with a supervisor, faced an ethical dilemma, and so on. As you think back, more examples will come to mind.
In your example, you could have responded "I can't think of a time when I was treated unfairly, but speaking of ethics, I remember when I had a patient with end stage esophageal cancer who tole me she was ready to die but was afraid to tell her daughter and doctor. The doctor kept ordering more procedures.I asked the patient if I contact her pastor to come in and talk to the family, and she agreed. I got ahold of our Social Services, who made the arrangements. I wasn't there the day of the meeting, but when I came back to work, I was told she was discharged to Hospice. I felt like I did the right thing."
In your case, the interviewers frowned because they wanted to hear about something related to your ability to manage conflict at work. The key is to recall an example and segue to the positive.
Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!